Hollywood movie director Oliver Stone praises Putin for Syria intervention on trip to Saudi Arabia
American filmmaker Oliver Stone on Wednesday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "stabilizing force" in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, as Moscow and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad raced to take over territory vacated by US forces pulling out and leaving behind their Kurdish allies.
Stone, the 73-year-old director of "JFK," ''Platoon" and "Wall Street," long has been known for his strident views on American foreign policy. However, his comments came during the Future Investment Initiative forum in Saudi Arabia, which officially opposes the Assad regime.
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While Putin visited both Riyadh and the neighboring United Arab Emirates this month, they still have differences over the Syrian conflict, though they may be reconciling with Assad's continued rule.
The UAE restored relations with the Assad regime in December 2018 and sent a trade delegation to Damascus last August.
It wasn't clear whether Stone, who made the documentary "The Putin Interviews," had any idea about the recent history of relations between the Assad regime and the Gulf tates.
"Mr. Putin was always concerned about the terrorists," Stone said, referring to anti-Assad rebels. "If they had gotten to Damascus and they almost did, there would be a possible caliphate throughout this whole region."
The director added: "I think Mr. Putin is very concerned about peace."
Thousands of Syrian civilians have been killed in Russian airstrikes on Syria, and human rights organizations have documented the deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools by Russian forces.
Rebel forces did reach Damascus' doorstep before Russia and Iran entered the war on Assad's side, but they included a range of fighters, not just Islamic extremists.
The Syrian conflict began in 2011, after pro-democracy protests were brutally suppressed by the Assad regime.
U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month pulled American troops from northern Syria, leading to a Turkish invasion in an area home to US-allied Kurdish forces. Trump's administration now wants US forces to guard Syria's oil fields. In the absence of US troops, Russian military patrols have moved into the region between all the warring parties.
In a little less than 20 minutes on stage at the forum, Stone also acknowledged evacuating his home Sunday night due to California's wildfires, promoted the idea of nuclear power plants and called Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy's assassin, an "agent of the CIA."
Stone's famous 1991 movie JFK took many "artistic liberties" with events surrounding the 1963 murder of the 35th President of the United States.
Asked if he'd seen much of Saudi Arabia, Stone responded: "You've kept me locked in a hotel room." It wasn't clear if he knew the nearby Ritz-Carlton Hotel served as a detention facility during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's 2017 purge targeting businessmen, princes and others.